EDITORIAL: Movies that will help make good students

(Image: ikwilfilmskijken.com)

(Image: ikwilfilmskijken.com)


Labor Day weekend is coming to an end and many parents and children out there right now in this country are begrudgingly are back to school.  Some may have already started their new years while other start after the holiday. Supplies will be bought. Backpacks will be readied. Routines will be made. The question is are their hearts and minds ready.  Ask any teacher or tutor out there worth their salt from anywhere in the world, myself included, and they’ll trade all the flashy material things and gadgets off that school supply list for students prepared with a kind heart, a willing mind, and a positive attitude.  Those three traits aren’t found in the store aisles. However, there are a few movies out there that can inspire future good students and spark conversations for a family movie night at home. Enjoy this quick editorial list mixing recommendations featuring traditional and non-traditional teacher/student movie roles!


The biographical Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan story is proof of two particular things of many that fit with this editorial.  It’s a testament that anyone can learn, no matter their disability, and that a hard-working, patient, and strong teacher can make all the difference.  There is no better cinematic example of a home tutor than Anne Bancroft’s Sullivan.  Both she and Patti Duke and won the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress Academy Awards for their incredibly wrought portrayals of Sullivan and Keller.  This film is an unquestioned, must-see masterpiece and still holds a perfect 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.


I said in my film review of last year’s holiday season hit from director Stephen Chbosky that Wonder was destined to be a “instant classic” and “new favorite.”  I wasn’t wrong. This is the perfect time of year to bring the film back from fresh memories as a reminder for the coming school season.  Its messages on kindness, acceptance, and bullying were built to be timelessly topical. Few elementary school-age films power themselves with this much empathy.


If you need a lighter tonic to par with tissue-box moments of Wonder, check out this silly series of movies based on the popular books of Jeff Kinney.  The 2010 starter has turned into a mini-franchise of four films and counting. Playing like a diary with internal and external monologues, these films work for viewers to see a student’s keen perspective rather than always an adult one looking down to youth.


Robin Williams’ John Keating character often tops critic and fan lists alike as the best movie teacher of all-time.  See the film and marvel why. A great teacher cannot succeed without students equally dedicated to the learning at hand.  The caring and dedication from both sides shown here in Peter Weir’s 1989 film is extraordinary.


Let’s go from one comedian in Williams going serious to play an unconventional teacher to another in Jack Black who has no interest in going to that level of solemnity.  The movies may be very different, but their inspirational effects are quite similar. Thanks to Jack Black throwing all of his manic energy into the role, School of Rock supports that idea of dedicated teachers creating dedicated students.  It’s all about tapping into the talents that lie within. This is party Linklater fit for the family scene.


Not all learning occurs within the school setting and not all smart kids come from well-off socioeconomic backgrounds.  Those are two winning sentiments found in 2006’s Akeelah and the Bee starring Keke Palmer, Laurence Fishburne, and Angela Bassett about an inner city girl from Los Angeles competing in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.  The film pushes back against racial and gender stigmas associated with students and brings out the importance of community in the education of its youth.  Hard work and supportive neighbors are keys to the character’s success. Enjoy this rousing crowd pleaser!


Last but not least, Gus Van Sant’s 2000 film Finding Forrester is another stellar example where sometimes the best tutoring relationship is something one-on-one.  Rob Brown is a talented student and basketball player who discover and befriends a reclusive legendary writer, with shades of J.D. Salinger, who lives in his neighborhood, played by the esteemed Oscar winner Sean Connery.  Breaking barriers and molding minds, the unlikely peers reshape and strengthen each other’s courage, identity, and creativity. Beautiful stuff!

To find where you can stream or rent any of these excellent titles, do a search over at JustWatch or ReelGood to find the viewing opportunity and platform fit for you!